Damien Cook's staggering Wayne Bennett claim as pivotal Rabbitohs decision looms

The Rabbitohs veteran believes Wayne Bennett is the right man to lead the Bunnies forward.

Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook hopes Wayne Bennett will return to South Sydney in 2025 as he believes he can get the best out of the team. The Bunnies veteran was coached by Bennett from 2019 to 2021 when the side made two preliminary finals and the 2021 grand final.

The Dolphins coach is reportedly set to be offered a three-year deal from 2025 to replace his former protege Jason Demetriou, who was sacked as Souths coach last month. The 74-year-old will leave the Dolphins at the end of the season, handing over the reins to assistant coach Kristian Woolf. And it is widely anticipated that the seven-time premiership-winning coach will take over the Souths head coaching role from interim coach Ben Hornby for next season.

Damien Cook pictured left and Wayne Bennett right
Damien Cook believes Wayne Bennett is the right man to lead the Bunnies forward. Image: Getty

Bennett has made it clear that for his next deal that he doesn't want to be restricted time-wise like he was in his most recent coaching roles with Souths and the Dolphins. He reportedly wants a minimum of three years to chase his eighth premiership and won't sign unless he is given time to mould the team the way he wants. The Rabbitohs are understood to be open to such a contract, reportedly tabling a deal for Bennett that would likely see him finish his head coaching career at the NRL foundation club.

And speaking to reporters at North Sydney Oval ahead of the Bunnies clash, Cook said he is excited by the prospect of once again playing under then seven-time premiership-winning coach. "I think someone like Wayne, there are certain players in the game that you want to have that presence and you want to play alongside, and I think Wayne is one of those coaches you want to play for as well," Cook said.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 02: Coach Wayne Bennett chats with players Damien Cook and Blake Taaffe during a South Sydney Rabbitohs training session ahead of the 2021 NRL Grand Final at Suncorp Stadium on October 02, 2021 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Wayne Bennett coached the Rabbitohs from 2019 to 2021, leading the side to two preliminary finals and the 2021 grand final, where they fell agonisingly short to the Penrith Panthers.

"It's really hard to put into words what he does," he said. "For me personally when he was here I had a very special connection with him. There is a care factor there that is both on and off the field, not to say other coaches don't have that.

"Sometimes he pulled me into one-on-one sessions. I probably got the most value out of those things. He just went through my game and different things and pointed out what he liked and what he didn't like. He is very clear-minded with what [he wanted] you to do. I think his care factor off the field is the reason why a lot of players have a lot of respect for him... That's why people say he is one of the greatest coaches in our game.

"So I will definitely remember all those little things and conversations I had with him. I'll try and get a good handshake out of him. It's a very special thing to be around. For now, we're going to keep fighting hard until the end of the year."

Bennett confirmed last week that he wants to coach again next season, with a Rabbitohs reunion looking more and more likely. The Dolphins coach is understood to be in contact with the Souths hierarchy but no decision will be made until the NRL Magic Round next weekend.

NRL clubs will travel to Brisbane next week and while in Queensland, Souths officials are set to meet with Bennett to discuss the coaching role for next year. But in the meantime, Bennett is keeping his cards close to his chest.


"I made a statement the other day and nothing has changed since then. I spoke to them and they spoke to me,” Bennett said last week. "I’m going to be unemployed at the end of the year so there’s a job.

"I don’t know how long they want me for and I’ve had no conversation with them except they rang me up and spoke about an opportunity in the future. We’ll get our weekend football out of the way and we’ll talk next week."